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cultural vandal | by maryann johanson

question of the day: If it’s okay to worry that ‘Inception’ is too smart, where is the worry about movies that are too stupid?

Inception has finally arrived, and now we’ll see if audiences feel the same way about it as critics do: reviews range from pretty good to rapturous, with only a few detractors (and not just Armond White, either!)

But I’ve been noticing a particular tenor in the predictions of how audiences may react that I find deeply disturbing. All over the Web at lots of major outlets for the discussion of film are articles with headlines like these:

“Will Inception Be Too Smart for Moviegoers?” (TV.com)

“Is ‘Inception’ Too Smart for Audiences?” (Hollywood.com)

“Is Inception Too Smart To Be a Hit?” (Film.com)

“Will ‘Inception’ Be Too Smart for Audiences?” (Cinematical)

“Can You Enjoy Inception if You’re Not Very Smart?” (Vanity Fair)
Now, most of these pieces end up countering their own headlines, determining that, no, audiences are not stupid and everyone will enjoy the film just fine. But the fact that the question is being asked in this particular way really bugs me.

I mean, where were all the headlines wondering if audiences were too smart for MacGruber, or if Grown Ups was too dumb to appeal to ordinary moviegoers? There weren’t any, at least not that I could find. Sure, there were plenty of complaints about how dumb these movies are, but there didn’t seem to be any general handwringing over the lack of intelligence these movies evince, or whether they were appropriate for mainstream audiences.

Am I just being oversensitive here? Why does it seem that it’s just fine dandy to pick on movies for perhaps being too smart for some people, but not just fine to pick on other movies for perhaps being too stupid for some people? If it’s okay to worry that Inception is too smart, where is the worry about movies that are too stupid?

Is this just another example of the wide strain of anti-intellectualism that runs through American culture? Or is something else at work?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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